Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, questions U.S. Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger during the Senate Rules and Administration Committee hearing on “Oversight of the U.S. Capitol Police Following the January 6th Attack on the Capitol, Part III”, in Washington, January 5, 2022.
Tom Williams | Pool | Reuters
The personal communication from Apple’s CEO directly to lawmakers is a sign of how important Apple considers the specifics of the legislation and how fiercely it will defend the way its App Store for iPhones operates. Punchbowl News reported earlier this week that Cook was making calls and scheduling meetings with senators about the legislation.
One antitrust bill being debated on Thursday, the American Innovation and Online Choice Act, would prevent dominant tech platforms from favoring their own products over others. The Senate Judiciary Committee, on which Cruz serves, is discussing this and one other bill on Thursday.
If the bill is enacted, it is expected to require Apple to permit sideloading, or the ability for users to install apps without going through Apple’s App Store, allowing app-makers to avoid the App Store’s 15% to 30% fees.
Senator Cruz, a Republican from Texas, said that Cook expressed concern that the American Innovation and Choice Online Act could prevent Apple from improving their products by implementing privacy and security features.
“I spent about 40 minutes on the phone yesterday with Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple, who expressed significant concerns about the bill,” Cruz said. “One issue that he raised, that I thought was a reasonable issue was a concern, that the bill would erect obstacles to Apple giving consumers the ability to opt out of apps monitoring what they’re doing online where they’re going, and what’s occurring on their phone.”
An Apple representative declined to comment on Cook’s call with Cruz, but the senator’s account of Cook’s concerns is similar to a letter Apple sent to the Senate committee earlier this week, in which the company said that if iPhone users and consumers were allowed to install software directly from the internet, it could lead to a wave of malware.
“Apple offers consumers the choice of a platform protected from malicious and dangerous code. The bills eliminate that choice,” Timothy Powderly, Apple senior director of government affairs wrote in the letter.
“I want to clarify for the record that I don’t read the language of this bill as applying to or as being intended to apply to tech companies giving consumers the ability to to exercise choice or to opt-out of privacy invasive policies,” Cruz continued.
In his remarks, Cruz said his main concern is preventing online platforms from censoring or curating public debate, a topic that is more relevant to other big tech companies than Apple, which doesn’t operate a social network.
The American Innovation and Online Choice act is meant to prevent dominant tech platforms from favoring their own products, and is written in a way that would affect many other large tech companies, not just those who run app stores. Apple and several other tech companies, including Alphabet, Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter, and Spotify, have disclosed they are lobbying on the bill.
The Open Markets App, also being debated on Thursday, would mainly affect Apple and Google’s mobile app stores.